Abolished or Fulfilled?
The Mosaic Law in Relation to the New Covenant of Christ According to the Fathers of the Church


The entire scope of salvation history consists of God’s covenants with man. From the covenant of creation to the covenants of Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Christ, the development of the plan of salvation can be traced since the Fall of Man. The relationship between these covenants is at once both clear and obscure. Each covenant serves the same basic purpose: to bring man into a deeper relationship with God. However, on a human level, these covenants sometimes seem to be in conflict and even contradictory. Probably the greatest example of this tension is between the Mosaic covenant and the covenant instituted by Christ. After the establishment of this truly ‘New Covenant’, many of the prescriptions of the old, Mosaic covenant were simply abolished by the Christians. Yet, the institutor of the New Covenant, Jesus himself, says, "Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, til heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished" (Matt. 5:17-18). The ‘problem’ of the relationship between these covenants was an especially important issue to the first Christians, who were in the process of becoming distinct from Judaism, while still claiming continuity with Judaism’s history, including the Mosaic Law. The early church fathers were obliged to explain the true purpose of the Mosaic Law as well as the relationship between the two covenants. The patristics would prove capable of the task.

This paper will survey the beginnings of Christian thought regarding the Mosaic Law. According to the Fathers of the Church, the Mosaic Law was not to be followed literally in its entirety now that Christ had come. Although certain parts of the Law were still to be applicable to daily Christian living, many parts, especially the ceremonial aspects, were no longer to be regarded as binding. The justification for this division of the Law and the declaration of its invalidity comes from the fathers’ belief as to the original purpose of the Law. According to the Fathers of the Church, the original purpose of the Law was twofold: first, it was a "divine accommodation" by God on account of the Jews’ sinfulness, to lead them out of their sin and idolatry; secondly, it was to prefigure the Christian covenant and the Christian life through typology and allegory. Many of the fathers develop or emphasize one or both of these two purposes, but many times they are simply intermingled without explanation. The twofold purpose, however, combine to form the basis of the patristics’ explanations of the ultimate purpose of the Mosaic Law in relation to the new covenant of Christ.

Foundations of Patristic Thought

Before delving into the depths of patristic belief, one must briefly examine the foundation of the fathers’ thought, that is, Christ and the first Christians. The later fathers were to defend their own beliefs about the Mosaic Law from the practice and beliefs of Jesus and the first Christian community. Thus, it is necessary to first present an overview of them before discussing the patristics.


As is recorded in the Gospels, Jesus himself does not formally renounce the practice of the Mosaic Law. In fact, he states quite clearly, "Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them" (Matt. 5:17). Clearly, he is more concerned with the interior attitude of the Jew than with the actual, external practices of the Law. He strongly condemns those who practice the minute parts of the Law while disregarding the "weightier things" (cf. Matt. 23:23-24). This focus of his condemnations on the hypocrisy of those who followed the external regulations while disregarding the internal precepts for which the Law was made is much like that of many of the Old Testament prophets. However, Jesus himself frequented the temple and participated in the ritual life of first century Judaism, which does not seem to suggest that he called for an absolute abolishment of the external practices. It is because of this ambiguity as to Jesus’ interpretation of the Mosaic Law that debate among the Christians would later surface.

The Early Church(1)

The relation of Jesus to the Mosaic Law is continued by his first apostles. It is clear from Acts that the first Christian community participated in daily attendance at the Temple (Acts 2:46). However, this newly-founded community also immediately began to distinguish itself from the rest of Judaism. This included, for example, meeting together in their homes for the "breaking of the bread". Also, the story of Stephen shows that the conflict that was to engulf the early church - whether Christians had to follow the Mosaic Law - was already developing very early in the life of the Church. Apparently Stephen was part of a group with strong Hellenist ties who denounced the practices of the temple and renounced the Jews as a "stiff-necked people" (Acts 7:51). Although the controversy seems to have died down somewhat after his stoning (at least as the author of Acts tells it), this issue was to become the most divisive one for the Christians in the first century. The conversion of Gentiles, especially in Antioch, and the preaching of the Apostle Paul led to the question of the extent to which the new Gentile converts would have to follow the rituals of the Mosaic Law. The result, as decided in the Council of Jerusalem (c. 49 A.D.), was that although the Gentiles would have to "abstain from the pollutions of idols and from unchastity and from what is strangled and from blood" (Acts 15:19), they would not have to follow the ritual prescription of the Law, most notably circumcision. Thus was the door permanently opened for Christianity to become a universal religion.

The most prominent figure in all these deliberations was Paul (d. c.64), a Jew by birth, who was to become the "Apostle to the Gentiles". Even after his conversion he personally kept the Law (Acts 21:26), but he was most adamant about not binding the new Gentile converts to the restrictions it contained. Two of his epistles, to the Romans and to the Galatians, clearly put forth his belief in the relationship between the old Law and the Gospel of Christ. As he states in his letter to the Galatians, "the law was our custodian (paidagwgoV) until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith." (3:24) According to Paul, the Law had existed to educate the people in preparation for the Gospel, and therefore the ritual aspects of it were no longer necessary for the Gentile converts, since "a man is not reckoned righteous by works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ" (Gal. 2:16). This interpretation of his was to form the foundation upon which the later Church Fathers would build in their own writings.

After Paul, one of the major documents that discussed the relationship that Christians should have with the Jewish Law was the Epistle to the Hebrews (c. 67). This letter is written to Jewish Christians, who had been possibly feeling a temptation to return to Jewish practices, especially in a time of high nationalistic feelings directed against the Roman Empire(2). Here the author clearly states the fulfillment of the Law by Christ, and thus the elimination of the need to follow its prescriptions. "In Hebrews...the system (of sacrificial law) was not condemned but shown to be wanting; ultimately only the death of Christ truly fulfilled the purpose of the law."(3) This can be seen clearly in Chapter 10 of this epistle:

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices which are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered? If the worshippers had once been cleansed, they would no longer have any consciousness of sin. But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year. For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins...But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, then to wait until his enemies should be made a stool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. (10:1-4;12-14)

As one can observe then, the author of this letter does not discuss a punitive or pedagogical reason for the sacrificial parts of the Mosaic Law, but instead simply emphasizes their fulfillment in the ultimate sacrifice of Christ.

Apostolic Fathers

Shortly after the writing of Hebrews, the Fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple permanently altered Jewish-Christian relations, and therefore also affected was the way in which the Christians interpreted the practicing of the Law. Following this decisive split, the strength of the Judaizer movement in the Church began to diminish significantly. This is not to say that there were not still groups calling for practicing the Law. This Jewish Christian movement consisted of two divisions. One group felt that all converts should follow the precepts of the Law, while the other only viewed the Mosaic Law as applying to Jewish, not Gentile, Christians. The first group eventually became heretical from ‘orthodox’ Christianity. The second could have remained part of the church; however, with the destruction of Jerusalem, the exodus to Pella, and the martyrdom of James the Apostle, this group eventually disappeared.(4) The letters of Ignatius of Antioch (c.110) and the Epistle of (Pseudo) Barnabas (c. 130) show the battle between the church and those elements in the church that wanted to force all Christians to practice the ritual aspects of the Law. In Ignatius’ letter to the Magnesians, he states very clearly, "Do not be led astray by wrong views or by outmoded tales that count for nothing. For if we still go on observing Judaism, we admit we never received grace."(5) And then a little later, he definitively states the relationship between Christianity and Judaism: "It is monstrous to talk Jesus Christ and to live like a Jew. For Christianity did not believe in Judaism, but Judaism in Christianity."(6) So it can be seen that Ignatius had to address those who professed Christ yet still perceived a need to follow the ritual prescriptions of the Law. However, he states clearly that the time of "Judaism" is over: now is the time for faith in Jesus. The Epistle of Barnabas shows that a few decades later the problem is still plaguing the Church. This strongly anti-Jewish letter proclaims definitively that all Christians should forsake the ritual laws of the Jews. The author defends his argument by quoting the Old Testament passages that emphasize the internal requirements of the Law.(7) Following the example of Paul, he also shows the spiritual significance of the Law, and the ways in which different elements of the Old Covenant are types of Christ and the New.(8) This type of interpretation would become very popular with the Fathers. From both Ignatius and Pseudo-Barnabas it is evident that although the Judaizing elements within the church had not yet been eradicated, the Christians had become much more confident in proclaiming the absolute abolishment of the ritual prescriptions of the Mosaic Law.

Written at approximately the same time as Pseudo-Barnabas, the Letter to Diognetus (c. 130) exhibits a different approach to the question of the Jewish Law, particularly with respect to the sacrifices. The author is concerned with apologetics and answering the charges of both the pagans and the Jews. First he ridicules the pagans for the "stupidity of offering sacrifices to idols", but then he chides the Jews for offering sacrifices to God "as if he needed them".(9) Further, he equates the sacrifices of the Jews with the sacrifices of the pagans. He then ridicules the Jews for boasting of their "mutilation of the flesh as a sign of their choice by God"(10), an obvious reference to circumcision. This highly anti-Jewish and even anti-Old Testament interpretation was not to be continued later by any of the Fathers, who, after the attacks of Marcion, felt the need to distinguish the sacrifices of the Jews commanded by the God of Jesus from the sacrifices of the pagans.


Following somewhat along the lines drawn out by Pseudo-Barnabas and the author of "Diognetus", a major figure emerges in the 2nd Century with a radical interpretation of the relationship between the Old and New Covenants. Marcion (active c. 140-160) introduced a complete separation between the Mosaic Law and the Gospel.

Claiming fidelity to Paul, Marcion laid stress on Paul’s critique of the Mosaic law and concluded (1) that the revelation that came in Jesus Christ is opposed to the teaching of the Jewish Scriptures, (2) that the God of the New Testament is entirely other than the God of Judaism, and (3) that therefore Christians must repudiate everything associated with the Jewish law and everyone ‘too close kindred with Judaism’.(11)

Thus, the growing rejection of the practices of the Jews in the Christian community came to a radical apex with Marcion: the god who ordered sacrifices and ordained the Mosaic Law is actually a completely different god than the God of Jesus Christ. This dualism, which was so prevalent in the Gnosticism of Marcion’s day, was to be instrumental as the impetus for the church to set forth clearly the relationship between the Mosaic Law and the New Covenant of Christ. Marcion’s beliefs and others like his "struck at the very roots of the fundamental Christian conviction as to the continuity of God’s revelation in Jesus of Nazareth with God’s earlier revelations and actions as recorded in the Jewish Scriptures."(12) This challenge was not to be unanswered.

Division of the Law

The Fathers of the Church were continually grappling with this major issue: why did Christians, who claimed to believe in the God of the Old Testament, not follow the laws and prescriptions set forth therein? This question was posed to orthodox Christians from three different fronts: (1) from the Jews; (2) from heretical Christians; and (3) from the pagans and each era of the patristic age saw pressure from at least one of them.

First, the Jews used to their advantage the fact that the Christians claimed that their God was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in questioning the validity of the Christian religion. For example, Justin Martyr records Trypho, the Jew, asking of him:

But this is what we are most at a loss about: that you, professing to be pious, and supposing yourselves better than others, are not in any particular separated from them, and do not alter your mode of living from the nations, in that you observe no festivals or sabbaths, and do not have the rite of circumcision; and further, resting your hopes on a man that was crucified, you yet expect to obtain some good thing from God, while you do not obey His commandments. Have you not read, that that soul shall be cut off from his people who shall not have been circumcised on the eighth day?(13)

To justify the continuity claimed by Christians between the Old and New Covenants, a response to the Jews was necessary.

The second attack encountered by the fathers was one that had its source within the Church. As has been previously discussed (see p. * above), a strong movement, led by Marcion, completely rejected the Old Testament and all its commands. As this was a common feature of the larger Gnostic movement so strong in the second century, orthodox Christians of that time felt the demand to respond. Prospective Christians may have been unsure of the authority of the Old Testament, especially the Mosaic Law, when they witnessed the battles that took place within the Church over the proper interpretation of it.

Finally, relations between the early church and the pagans called for a defense of the Christian relationship with the Mosaic Law. One of the first charges the pagans leveled against the Christians was that their religion was a "new" and dangerous one. The answer to this charge came from explaining the continuity between Judaism before Christ and Christianity. Of course, it would then be necessary to clarify how the differences between the two do not negate their intrinsic continuity. The pagan attack thereby formed the final prong on the three levels of inquiry into the practice or non-practice of the Law by the Christians.

This three-pronged charge created the setting in which the orthodox Christians had to defend the continuity between the Mosaic Law and the Christian covenant. The first step in responding to the three groups was the practice of dividing the Law into separate sets of commandments. This consisted of claiming that there were differences between the various commands listed in the Mosaic Law; these differences included (1) the author of a particular regulation, (2) the permanence of a certain command, as well as (3) the original reason for a specific law. The practice of dividing the Law was not unique to Christians, however. Philo of Alexandria, a Jew of the first century A.D., divided the Law between commands of God and those of Moses, claiming, however, that all of them were good and should be obeyed.(14) The division made by the Christians, however, would take a more definitive shape.

The first such division comes from Justin Martyr (d. 165). In his Dialogue with Trypho, he presents a tripartite division of the Mosaic Law.(15) This can be seen clearly in Chapter 44:

...some injunctions were laid on you [the Jews] in reference to the worship of God and practice of righteousness; but some injunctions and acts were likewise mentioned in reference to the mystery of Christ, or on account of the hardness of your people’s hearts (sklhrokardion tou laou umwn).(16)

Justin distinguishes three different types of commands to be found in the Mosaic Law. The first are ethical commands that Justin believes must be followed and obeyed by all men. The second are commands that are symbolic or prophetic of Christ, such as the Passover lamb as a type (tupoV) of Christ and the roasted lamb on crossed spits as a symbol (sumbolon) of Christ on the Cross (Dialogue 40)(17). The final section of the Law is the most crucial in the debate with Trypho. It consists of those commands that were instituted for the Jews’ hardness of heart (sklhrokardion). According to Justin, these laws were temporary and are no longer to be followed due to the coming of Christ. This third section will be discussed in more detail later in this paper.

Another typical division, probably the most popular with the patristics, is the separation of the Law into two parts: (1) the moral requirements that have been retained and amplified by Christ; and (2) the ceremonial commands which have come to an end with Christ.(18) This division has a strong pedigree, being used by the likes of Irenaeus(19), Tertullian(20), Origen(21), and the author of Apostolic Constitutions(22). The first part usually consists of the Decalogue at the very least, but sometimes also includes other moral commands. The second section of the Law, the ritual ceremonies, is interpreted in a variety of ways by the Fathers. Sometimes it is seen to represent a law that was promulgated after the incident of the golden calf, called the "second law" (deuterwsiV), and it is sometimes seen as more of a symbolic or prophetic type of law that foreshadowed Christ and his sacrifice. Regardless of the interpretation, the notion that parts of the Law were permanent and others temporary is a common belief among the fathers.

To say that the idea of dividing the Law was unvaried among the patristics, however, would be incorrect. Many of the proponents of dividing the Law were members of the allegorical school of Alexandria, but the more literal-based interpretive school of Antioch consisted of a number of Fathers who did not feel that a division was appropriate for any section of the Scriptures. Antioch’s different hermanutical approach to Scripture led them to see the Mosaic Law more in terms of "historical developments and redemptive fulfilment".(23) As the greatest of the Antiocheans, John Chrysostom, states:

If a candle which gave light by night kept us, when it became day, from the sun, it would not only not benefit, it would injure us. And so does the Law, if it stands between us and greater benefits.(24)

Instead of viewing the Law in unequal parts of ceremonial and ethical commands, the Antiocheans instead interpret the entire Law as being fulfilled in Christ. Of course, it must be remembered that during the flourishing of the Antiochean school (especially with Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrus, and Chrysostom) the issues facing the Christian Church no longer consisted of defending the practices of Christians compared to the Jews; instead, they concerned the Trinitarian and Christological debates that consumed the 4th and 5th centuries. So instead of seeing the Law in various parts, the Law is perceived as one of man’s developmental steps toward the central figure in history: Christ. Because of this, some of the Antiochean fathers do not even see any of the Mosaic Law as applicable to Christians of their time, instead believing the Christian need only follow the Gospel. According to Richard Longenecker, "Chrysostom was not prepared to see the Mosaic law as an ethical guide for Christians."(25) Instead, with the coming of Christ, the totality of the Law has been fulfilled in him, and there is no need to divide it into two parts.

The next section will deal with the major interpretations of the Mosaic Law in relation to Christ by the patristics. The divisions just discussed will be important as the basis for most of the interpretations of the Fathers. It was necessary for the early Christians first to acknowledge which of the laws were still to be kept and which were now to be disregarded due to the advent of Christ. In general, most of the fathers regarded the Decalogue as still applicable to Christians but the ritual commands no longer binding. The invalidity of the ritual commandments was intrinsically related to the original purpose of the Law. This is the area to which we shall turn next.

The Purpose of the Law

How, then, were the ritual commands of the Mosaic Law, such as animal sacrifice, to be reconciled with the new, everlasting covenant of Christ? What was the original purpose of these commands in the light of the new revelation of Christ? An attempt to answer the first question was made early in the life of the church. Paul, the author of Hebrews, and the author of Pseudo-Barnabas all endeavored to explain the meaning of the Mosaic Law now that it had been fulfilled. However, the effort to address the second question was soon to be tackled by the Church Fathers, starting with Justin, and following through Irenaeus, Tertullian, Eusebius of Caesarea, and others. The various fathers offer multiple, and sometimes contradictory, attempts to the problem. Underlying these solutions were two major interpretive themes. The first is that of divine accommodation. By giving them the ritual laws, God "accommodated" the Jews, because of their "hardness of heart" and in order to lead them out of sin. In the other major theme, the predictive and symbolic elements of the Law are emphasized. Typological, symbolic, or allegorical interpretation would lead to an understanding of the Law’s meaning. Some who took this second position believed that even the Law’s original purpose was symbolic: the ancient Jews should have interpreted it allegorically and not literally. These interpretations interact with and overlap each other, and individual fathers are prone to move between the two: as we have seen, Justin’s division of the Law includes both of these themes. Nonetheless, to understand the fathers’ view of the Mosaic Law, it is necessary to examine both interpretations.

Divine Accommodation

A discussion of a few early church fathers will provide an overview of the pervasiveness of the idea of divine accommodation within the thought of the patristics.(26) Justin, Irenaeus, Eusebius of Caesarea, and John Chrysostom all approach this topic from different viewpoints and in different time periods, thus giving a good sampling of how the idea of divine accommodation was used in interpreting the commands of the Mosaic Law. Of these, Justin was the first to provide a somewhat systematic outline of this approach, and his in-depth interpretation laid a foundation that was to be followed by many other patristics.

Justin Martyr(27)

As was already mentioned, Justin’s third division of the Law consists of "injunctions [that] were laid on you...on account of the hardness of your people’s hearts (sklhrokardion tou laou umwn)"(28) This idea of certain commands being a result of the Jews’ ‘hardness of heart’ has its foundation, of course, in the very words of Jesus. When asked about the law of divorce, he answers, "For your hardness of heart (sklhrokardian umwn) Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so." (Matt. 19:8) Although never quoting this statement of Christ’s directly, Justin almost certainly knew it, and thus uses it as the basis of his argument. In fact, this third section of the Law forms the core of his argument with Trypho over the purpose of the Law. Justin states the stubborn disposition of the Jews as the very reason for at least the ritual prescriptions of the Law. For example, in Chapter 18 he states, "For we [the Christians] too would observe the fleshly circumcision, and the Sabbaths, and in short all the feasts, if we did not know for what reason they were enjoined you, - namely, on account of your transgressions and the hardness of your hearts."(29) Although Justin also sees a typological and allegorical reason for the Law, the one upon which he heavily relies in explaining the ultimate purpose of the Law is his third division - God’s accommodation to the hardness of the Jews’ hearts.(30)

Why did God need to accommodate Himself to the Jews? Justin explains this in his Dialogue by separately discussing the three major parts of the ritual commandments: the Sabbath rest, fasting and abstention of foods, and animal sacrifices (cf. Dialogue 19-22). Circumcision is not included since it was instituted before Moses.(31) First, God ordained the Sabbath "on account of your unrighteousness, and that of your fathers".(32) The Jews could not retain a "memorial of God"(33), so God instituted the Sabbath in order for them to be able to keep God in their thoughts. God knew the evil inclination of Israel to forget Him, so the Sabbath was commanded, not as a work of righteousness, but rather as a result of the Jews’ "unrighteousness".

Justin sees the command of fasting and abstention of certain foods in much the same light. He states, "you were commanded to abstain from certain kinds of food, in order that you might keep God before your eyes while you ate and drank, seeing that you were prone and very ready to depart from His knowledge..."(34) Israel, even after seeing the miracle of God’s providence in the manna, still refused to follow Him and instead worshipped a golden calf. Thus, God, according to Justin, had to enjoin on them certain dietary prescriptions to remind them that God is the provider of all food, thus creating a yoke to keep their eyes on Him.

In Chapter 22 of the Dialogue, Justin sets forth the purpose behind the command for the Jews to offer animal sacrifices to God. At the heart of God’s ‘problem’ was Israel’s constant inclination toward idolatry. This charge Justin uses most frequently against the Jews.(35) It is the key reason that God ordered animal sacrifices: He had to accommodate Israel’s inclination to idolatry by changing the focus of their sacrifices from false Gods to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.(36) The center of this charge of idol-worship is the incident with the Golden calf. As Justin succinctly states:

...until Moses, under whom your nation appeared unrighteous and ungrateful to God, making a calf in the wilderness: wherefore God, accommodating Himself to that nation, enjoined them also to offer sacrifices, as if to His name, in order that you might not serve idols.(37)

The enactment of the ritual commands of the Mosaic Law, according to Justin, was due to the sinfulness and stubbornness of the Jews - especially in their continual inclination for idolatry - as is preeminently witnessed in the incident of the Golden calf.

The underlying argument that Justin is advancing in explaining the original purpose of the Law is the current invalidity of the Law. His reason for positing this argument is to counter Trypho’s original point, which is the Christians’ lack of following the Law. Justin, however, is convinced that after the coming of Christ, major parts of the Law are no longer necessary. To support this claim, he hearkens back to the time before Moses, when the ancient Jews were not bound to the ritual commands (except circumcision).(38) Thus, Justin believes that the Law enacted by Moses was a temporary one. If this was not the case, then either God changes or the God of the righteous before Moses was a different god: conclusions Justin finds absurd.(39) Due to the late entry of the Law into salvation history, Justin concludes that it was clearly meant originally to be temporary. Thus, the coming of Christ invalidates this temporary Law.

Trypho perceives a problem with this argument: if the Law was to be temporary, and Christ has now made it invalid, why did Jesus himself follow its ritual commands?(40) The answer to this, according to Justin, is again divine accommodation:

I have admitted it [that Jesus followed the ceremonial law of Moses], and do admit it: yet I have admitted that He endured all these not as if He were justified by them, but completing the dispensation (oikonomia) which His Father, the Maker of all things, and Lord and God, wished Him [to complete].(41)

Just as part of God’s oikonomia was that He ordained that sacrifices were necessary for the Jews for a time, so also part of that accommodating plan included that Jesus himself would submit to the ritual prescriptions of the Law. In fact, in the Dialogue, immediately after admitting of Christ’s observance of the Law, Justin fires back at Trypho to answer whether or not the righteous before Moses were saved although they did not follow the prescriptions of the Law, thus reemphasizing the Law’s temporary nature.(42)

Christ, then, according to Justin, is the Law (nomoV).(43) He uses Old Testament texts that predict the coming of a new law and applies them to Jesus himself (e.g. Is.51:4-5; Mic. 4:1-7; Ps. 18:8 [LXX]).(44) Justin contrasts the former law as the ‘Old Law’ (palaioV nomoV)(45) as well as a temporary one with Christ as the ‘New Law’ (kainoV nomoV) and the ‘Eternal Law’ (aiwnioV nomoV).(46) The Mosaic Law was never meant to be installed permanently, as can be seen from the Old Testament itself, and the predictions contained there point to the ‘new covenant’ which Justin sees fulfilled in Christ for all eternity.

Other Church Fathers

Justin was the first of the Fathers to write extensively on the concept of divine accommodation in relation to the Mosaic Law. His viewpoint is a good example of how the Fathers attempted to explain this relationship. After him, this concept became ingrained in the thought of many of the patristics. Although it is beyond the scope of this paper to discuss in detail all of the major fathers, a brief overview of a few of them would do well to show other perspectives apart from Justin. Each of the fathers selected present a different situation in which accommodation in regards to the Mosaic Law is used. Justin, as we have seen, was writing to a Jewish (as well as pagan) audience; Irenaeus is concerned about refuting the Gnostic heresy; Eusebius is writing in the period of the early Church’s greatest triumph, the rise and conversion of Constantine; and John Chrysostom uses accommodation in the era of the great Trinitarian and Christological debates.


Immediately following Justin, not only chronologically, but also to some extent in thinking, Irenaeus (d. c.198) also discusses the relationship between the Old Covenant and the New. His Against Heresies is a monumental work directed against the strong Gnostic movement of his time. Since the Gnostics denied the continuity between the two testaments, Irenaeus sets forth in book 4 of Against Heresies his refutation by explaining their relationship and ultimate continuity.

Like Justin, Irenaeus views the ancient Jews as heavily prone to idolatry. Because of this, God employed the Law as an educational tool to focus the Jews back to Him.(47) Irenaeus recognizes in the Decalogue certain universal precepts that all men must still follow, but the ritual aspects of the Law are no longer necessary since Christ had fulfilled the Law. As Irenaeus states:

For God at the first, indeed, warning them by means of natural precepts, which from the beginning He had implanted in mankind, that by means of the Decalogue (which, if any one does not observe, he has no salvation), did then demand nothing more of them....But when they turned themselves to make a calf, and had gone back in their minds to Egypt, desiring to be slaves instead of freemen, they were placed for the future in a state of servitude suited to their wish, which did not indeed cut them off from God, but subjected them to the yoke of bondage...(48)

The Jews, according to Irenaeus, were so prone to idolatry (that began in Egypt) that God had to accommodate them with additional precepts beyond the Decalogue so that they would not fall away from Him. This came to predominate patristic thought: the sojourn in Egypt by the Jews lead to their evil inclinations which God had to slowly extract from them. Against the Gnostic dichotomy Irenaeus explains the intrinsic relationship between the actions of God in the Old Covenant and His actions in the New.

Eusebius of Caesarea

Whereas Justin and Irenaeus are good representatives of the pre-Nicene Church, Eusebius of Caesarea (d. c.340) gives a helpful glimpse of the Church of the Nicene years. Eusebius lived in an era that he considered one of the greatest in Church History - the conversion of the Roman Empire - and he views all of salvation history as leading up to this great moment. One of his writings, The Proof of the Gospel, written about 317 is Eusebius’ explanation of the theological and historical relationship between Judaism and Christianity, in which he explains his interpretation of the purpose of the Mosaic Law.

True to his historical leanings, Eusebius divides the story of salvation into three separate periods: before the Law, the time of the Law, and after the Law (the time of Christ).(49) The coming of the Messiah was not the beginning of a new age, but a return to the pre-Mosaic times. As other Fathers both before and after him, Eusebius stresses the fact that the righteous before Moses did not need to keep the Law. However, in the time of Moses it was necessary:

For the old covenant was given as a law to the Jews, when they had fallen from the religion of their forefathers, and had embraced the manners and life of the Egyptians, and had declined into the errors of polytheism, and the idolatrous superstitions of the Gentiles.(50)

However, unlike Justin and Irenaeus, who saw the Law as having a punitive nature, Eusebius interprets it differently. He continues the above statement:

It [the Mosaic Law] was intended to raise up the fallen, and to set on their feet those who were lying on their faces, by suitable teaching.(51)

The Law, therefore, had a positive role to play, not a punitive one. It was to lead the idolatrous Jews away from their sins and to the true God. But this Law only had a temporary task to fulfill; after it had accomplished it, Eusebius concludes in agreement with the other Fathers, the time came for it to be abolished. With the coming of Christ, humanity was to return to the "Old" law that existed before Moses.(52) The abolishment of the Mosaic Law and the return to the pre-Mosaic law is proven by the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.:

...the Romans besieged Jerusalem, and destroyed it and the Temple there. At once the whole of the Mosaic law was abolished, with all that remained of the old covenant...and the archetypal holiness of the pre-Mosaic men of God reappeared.(53)

The Mosaic Law’s role in salvation history was to lead the Jews out of their idolatry, but now that the pre-Mosaic time had returned, it no longer had any meaning, and therefore was abolished.

John Chrysostom

Living during the height of the Trinitarian and Christological controversies, the "Father of Accommodation", John Chrysostom (d. c.407), also found himself engaged in much anti-Jewish polemic. Thus, he is quite concerned with the original purpose of the Mosaic Law, its relationship to Christ, and the (in)validity of it in his time. In his Against the Jews, he considers one of the most important aspects of the Mosaic Law: animal sacrifices.

Chrysostom argues that God did not originally want sacrifices. However, when He saw that the Jews were so intent on offering them (in fact, they already had done so), He does allow the sacrifices in condescension (sugkatabainon) to their infirmity.(54) However, part of God’s plan was always eventually to end the need for sacrifices. To explain this, Chrysostom uses an illustrative analogy:

Suppose a physician sees a man who is suffering from fever and finds him in a distressed and impatient mood. Suppose the sick man has his heart set on a drink of cold water and threatens, should he not get it, to find a noose and hang himself....The physician grants his patient the lesser evil, because he wishes to prevent the greater evil and to lead the sick man away from a violent death....After he has given into the patient’s craving, he gets a drinking cup from his home and gives instructions to the sick man to satisfy his thirst from this cup and no other. When he has gotten his patient to agree, he leaves secret orders with the servants to smash the cup to bits; in this way he proposes, without arousing the patient’s suspicion, to lead him secretly away from the craving on which he has set his heart....Let me make the analogy clear. The physician is God, the cup is the city of Jerusalem, the patient is the implacable Jewish people, the drink of cold water is the permission and authority to offer sacrifices.(55)

God did not want the Jews to sacrifice, but like a good physician he gave the Jews the best overall prescription in order to lead them away from their sinful inclinations.

Writing during the great Christological debates, Chrysostom relates this practice of divine condescension to the Incarnation. If Christ had come other than in the ‘fullness of time’, his lessons would have come to naught. God had to wait until humanity was properly prepared for Christ’s message before He could send him.(56) In fact, in the eyes of Chrysostom, all of God’s actions and communications involve in some form accommodation.(57) We see in Chrysostom a heavy dependence on divine condescension, but this is merely the culmination of the deeply ingrained thought of the Fathers: God, due to our sinful humanity, must accommodate Himself in order to help man on his way to salvation.


Developing simultaneously in patristic thought with the concept of divine accommodation (particularly in the Alexandrian school) was the interpretive theme that viewed the Mosaic Law and most of the Pentateuch in terms of either allegory or prefigurement of Christ. These two themes should not be seen as mutually exclusive of one another; rather, one can observe that many of the fathers integrated divine accommodation and allegory/typology into a holistic interpretive approach. Therefore, it will be helpful to get an overview of a few of the fathers’ use of the allegorical or typological method as applied to the Mosaic Law.

The use of allegory to interpret the Mosaic Law did not originate with Christianity; it was already in use by Jewish interpreters. Although of course only the Christians saw the Law as prefiguring Christ, seeing commands of the Law in an allegorical fashion was common to both Jews and Christians. For example, Philo, in On The Special Laws, considers circumcision to be a symbol (sumbolon).(58) This is not to say that Philo did not also call for the literal practicing of the Law, including circumcision; he simply saw more than one intended meaning within it.

The use of allegory as well as typology in Christian thought has its beginnings in the New Testament itself, especially with Paul. For example, in Galatians 4:21-31 Paul makes explicit use of allegory (verse 24: atina estin allhgoroumena) in his comparison of life under the Law and life in Christ. And in Romans 5:14, he expressly calls Adam a type (tupoV) of Christ. This scriptural use of allegory and typology would be later imitated extensively by the Church Fathers. The Epistle of Barnabas is the first post-New Testament example of this great dependence upon these two interpretive forms. In Chapters 7 and following, Pseudo-Barnabas explains in-depth the typological or "spiritual" meaning behind many of the Mosaic commands, thus bolstering his argument on the invalidity of the Law.

From this foundation the patristics use allegory and typology in a variety of manners. These two constitute either the original purpose of the Law or the purpose of the Law now that Christ had fulfilled it, or both. Most Church Fathers believe that the ancient Jews were justified in following the literal prescriptions of the Mosaic covenant, but even this at times is implicitly disputed. Among the fathers who emphasize the "spiritual" aspects of the Law, the only clear consensus was that now that Christ had come, many parts of the Law are to be seen simply as an allegory for the moral life or as a typological prediction of the Messiah.(59) An overview of a few of the Fathers will give a good example of this view of the Mosaic Law in relation to the Christian covenant. Of the fathers who use this methodology, the Alexandrian fathers, especially Clement and Origen, are the most explicit in their emphasis on the "spiritual" or allegorical sense of the Mosaic dispensation. However, after the victory of Christianity and the ensuing Trinitarian controversies, the use of typology in interpreting the Mosaic Law has a different emphasis. The examples of Anthanasius and Basil will do well to show this new emphasis.

Allegory in the Alexandrian School

Clement of Alexandria (d. c.214) is the first teacher of the Alexandrian interpretive school with extant writings. This school’s dependence upon Philo and its strong use of allegory is exemplified well in Clement’s works. Clement held that mankind was gradually being educated, both through the revelation received by the Jews and through the philosophy of the Greeks.(60) The purpose of the Law in this divine plan was to prepare the way for Christ as well as to police the Jew’s sinful impulses.(61) As has been mentioned, the former idea is later continued by the likes of Eusebius of Caesarea. According to Clement, however, the Jews only saw the Law in the latter purpose, and not also as a prophet: "They [the Jews] had no faith in the prophetic power of the Law. They followed the bare letter, not the inner meaning; fear not faith....the end of the Law...is Christ, the Christ who is prophesied by the Law."(62) Clement, however, did not believe the Jews should not have kept even the moral aspects of the Law literally, but, inconsistently, he also chastises the Jews for only keeping the "bare letter", and not understanding the spiritual significance of the Law. The chief value of the Law, then, according to Clement, is its prediction of Christ and its moral principles. Both typology and allegory are used by him to explain these important elements. By his strong emphasis on the more important spiritual meaning of the Law as its ultimate purpose, Clement nearly seems to condemn the literal following of the Law by the ancient Jews.

None of the patristics, however, are as seeped in the allegorical tradition as much as Clement’s successor, Origen (d. c.254). This 3rd century giant uses the allegorical approach with unprecedented frequency. Although Origen was imbued deeply with the Philonic tradition of Alexandria, in Contra Celsum he defends his use of spiritual exegesis on Paul’s Hagar-Sarah allegory in Galatians 4:21-31.(63) The conclusions he reaches through his allegorical approach are sometimes extreme, yet an overview of his use of this method will be useful for understanding this approach.

In interpreting any of the Scriptures, Origen saw three possible levels of meaning, corresponding to the division of body, soul, and spirit. Each of these three levels had a certain importance to the believer, and the levels are necessary for the varying levels of spirituality that exist among believers. The truly spiritual man, however, will interpret the Scriptures (and thus also the Mosaic Law) in a totally spiritual manner, allegorizing and using typology to find the true meaning of commands and prescriptions. Origen’s heavy emphasis on the allegorical meaning of the Law led him, like Clement, to come close to denying the legitimacy of a literal observance, even for the ancient Jews. For example, Origen identifies Paul’s contrast between the ‘letter that kills’ and the ‘spirit that gives life’ with a literal and an allegorical interpretation of the Law.(64) The old laws were simply a shadow or a type, which were fulfilled with the coming of Christ. Origen, true to his nature, defends his somewhat radical allegorical approach by the use of an allegory. He states the breaking of the first law by Moses represents that the literal following of the Law was eventually to be broken; the second law that followed represents the superior allegorized Law.(65)

An example of Origen’s explanation of the Sabbath aspect of the Law portrays well his overall interpretation. Origen states that the law of the Sabbath was impossible to keep literally at any time, thus a strict observance of it was always misguided. The two specific prescriptions that Origen singles out as impossible are "Abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day" (Exodus 16:29) and "take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the Sabbath day" (Jeremiah 17:21). Origen claims that these two observances have always been impossible to obey, and were always meant to be seen spiritually.(66) Of course, this argument does not really attack the heart of the Jewish interpretation, since the Jews themselves interpreted ‘place’ and ‘burden’ somewhat liberally, but it shows the methodology Origen uses.(67)

Essentially, the Law, according to Origen, had been a preparation for the Gospel. Origen borrows imagery from Melito of Sardis to explain the relationship between the two:

Just as those whose craft it is to make tokens from copper and to pour statues, before they produce a true work of copper or of silver or of gold, first form figures from clay to the likeness of the figure image - certainly the model is necessary but only until the work that is principal be completed, but when that work on account of which that image was made of clay is completed, its use is no longer sought - understand also something like this in these things which were written or done ‘in a type’ and in a figure of the future in the Law and Prophets.(68)

Now that the figure has served its purpose, the time for it is passed, as is shown by the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. However, Origen himself states that many Christians of his time still followed some of the Law literally. He notes three different attitudes toward the Law held by his contemporary Christians:

(1) those who interpret the Law spiritually and therefore have abrogated it;
(2) those who interpret the Law spiritually but still observe the precepts; and
(3) those who do not interpret the Law spiritually, but believe that Christ is predicted therein and keep the Law literally.(69)

The first group is viewed by Origen to be the most spiritual of the Christians, and the mention of the third group shows that there still existed a significant number of Jewish Christians in the 3rd century. In general, Origen sees only some of the moral precepts of the Law as still binding on all Christians, and the rest as only useful in their "spiritual" sense.

Typology in the Trinitarian Controversies

After the victory of Christianity over the Roman Empire, the church began to debate within itself the divinity and relationships of the three persons of the Trinity. This new debate changed the context in which the Mosaic Law was discussed. The defenders of the divinity of Christ as well as the Holy Spirit, in order to bolster their claims, use the Old Law in a typological fashion to prove their arguments. The two greatest defenders, Athanasius (in regard to Christ) and Basil (the Holy Spirit), demonstrate this new emphasis.

The defense of the Incarnation, God becoming Man, was the all-consuming passion of Athanasius (d. 373). He spent his life attempting to prove to all - Jews, Greeks, and heretics - the divinity of Christ. To defend the Incarnation against the Jews, Athanasius uses the Hebrew Scriptures to show how they predicted the coming and divinity of the Messiah, and how this was fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. This interpretation includes the Mosaic Law. In chapters 33 through 40 of Incarnation of the Word, Athanasius reveals how all of the Old Testament, including the Mosaic commands, predicted his coming both explicitly and in type.(70) Athanasius is also concerned about showing how the Law is but a shadow, instituted to prepare men for the Incarnation. He does this by weaving together the ideas of the Law as a prefigurement and the Law as necessity due to the sins of the Jews. In his 19th Festal Letter (Easter 347) he writes,

Now it appears to me...that not at first were the commandment and the law concerning sacrifices, neither did the mind of God, Who gave the law, regard whole burnt-offerings, but those things which were pointed out and prefigured by them. ‘For the law contained a shadow of good things to come.’ And, ‘Those things were appointed until the time of reformation.’...But they chose to serve Baal, and dared to offer sacrifices to those that have no existence...then indeed, after the law, that commandment concerning sacrifices was ordained as law; so that..they might turn to Him who is truly God...Thus then, being...instructed and taught [to sacrifice to the Lord], they learned not to do service to any one but the Lord. They attained to know what time the shadow should last, and not to forget the time that was at hand, in which no longer should the bullock of the herd be a sacrifice to God, nor the ream of the flock, nor the he-goat, but all these things should be fulfilled in a purely spiritual manner..."(71)

Athanasius thus interprets the command to sacrifice being instituted both to strip the Jews of their evil inclinations as well as a prediction and preparation of the spiritual sacrifice of the Christian. Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of the Law, which was to educate the Jews as being a figure of things to come.

Basil the Great (d. 379) followed Athanasius’ defense of the divinity of Christ with his own masterful apology for the divinity of the Holy Spirit. One of the arguments that Basil uses for the divinity of the Holy Spirit is that Christians are baptized with the Trinitarian formula, which makes all three equal and all divine. The response to Basil is that some were "baptized into Moses" (I Cor. 10:2) but Moses is not divine. Basil replies in On the Holy Spirit, chapter 14. Quite simply, according to Basil:

Our answer is that the faith in the Spirit is the same as the faith in the Father and the Son; and in like manner, too, the baptism. But the faith in Moses and in the cloud is, as it were, in a shadow and a type. the nature of the divine is very frequently line of the types; but because divine things are prefigured by small and human things, it is obvious that we must not therefore conclude the divine nature to be small. The type is an exhibition of things expected, and gives an imitative anticipation of the future.(72)

Basil then continues by giving examples of types that are to prefigure Christ: the manna, blood of the sheep, the firstborn, and others. Basil forcefully explains that the type is to prefigure the antitype, and to put your belief in both equally is foolishness. The type by itself can give nothing, and eternal life is only possible by its fulfillment, which is Christ. "What spiritual gift is there through Moses? What dying of sins is there? Those men did not die with Christ; wherefore they were not raised with Him."(73) Basil stresses the importance of seeing the Mosaic Law as only a ‘shadow’, but to put one’s trust in the fulfillment of the shadow.

The Trinitarian controversies gave the Church a new opportunity to interpret the Mosaic Law in light of the coming of Christ and the revelation of the Trinity. This new situation lead a number of the fathers, especially Athanasius and Basil, to emphasize more clearly the Law not only as having been instituted for the sins of the Jews, but also as a prefiguring, a ‘shadow and a type’ of greater things to come.


From its very beginning, the Church was aware of the tension that existed between the Mosaic covenant and the new covenant that they proclaimed in Christ. Ultimately, how binding was the Mosaic Law to the new believer in Christ? If the code of the Mosaic Law was no longer to be followed, what was its original purpose? From its inception, the church grappled with these issues in an attempt to harmonize the message of the Mosaic Law with the message it proclaimed. The extremes consisted of the Judaizer movement on one hand and the Gnostics on the other. The church took the middle road between these two ends. The fathers present clearly and bluntly the original purpose of the Law and the use of it in the Christian community. The fulfillment of the Law by Christ, who was predicted by it, has led to the abolishment of many of the precepts that it contained. The Mosaic Law was always meant to be a temporary one, and the coming of the Messiah and the destruction of the Temple show conclusively that its time is over. Although the moral commands of the Decalogue are still to be obeyed by all men, the Law now shows, in its predictive element, the divine dispensation that was always planned to be culminated in Christ. Christians can see how God, in His divine oikonomia, predicted the ending of the Law from its inception: its precepts are types for the covenant that will bring the literal following of it to an end.

Now before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed. So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; for in Christ Jesus you are all Sons of God, through faith. (Gal. 3:23-26)



(1) Much of the information of this historical section comes from Thomas Bokenkotter, A Concise History of the Catholic Church (New York: Image Books, 1990), 7-27.

(2) cf. Frances M. Young, The Use of Sacrificial Ideas in Greek Christian Writers from the New Testament to John Chrysostom (Cambridge, MA: The Philadelphia Patristic Foundation, Inc., 1979), 82-83.

(3) Ibid., 82.

(4) Robert Wilde, The Treatment of the Jews in the Greek Christian Writers of the First Three Centuries (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1949), 90.

(5) Ignatius of Antioch, To the Magnesians, 8.1. [Cyril C. Richardson, Th.D., D.D., trans. and ed. "Letter of Ignatius to the Magnesians", Early Christian Fathers (New York: Collier Books, 1970), 96].

(6) Ibid., 10.3 [97].

(7) Epistle of Barnabas, Chp. 2-3; quoting Isa. 1:11-14; Jer. 7:22; Isa. 58:4-5. [Alexander Roberts D.D. and James Donaldson, LL.D, eds. "Epistle of Barnabas", Anti-Nicene Fathers. Vol. 1, The Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1994) 138].

(8) Ibid., Chp. 10ff. [143ff.].

(9) Letter to Diognetius, 3.4. [Richardson, "The So-Called Letter to Diognetius", 215].

(10) Ibid., 4.4 [216].

(11) Richard N. Longenecker, "Three Ways of Understanding Relations between the Testaments: Historically and Today," Tradition and Interpretation in the New Testament, edited by Gerald F. Hawthorne with Otto Betz. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Berdmans Publishing Company, 1987), 22-23; citing Tertullian, Adv. Marc. 5.3.1.

(11) Ibid., 23.

(12) Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chp. 10 (emphasis added). [Roberts, "Dialogue with Trypho, A Jew", 199].

(13) Philo, "Life of Moses", Book II, 188, translated by F.H. Colson, M.A. The Loeb Classical Library, "Philo VI", T.E. Page and others, eds. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1966), 543: "Now I am fully aware that all things written in the sacred books are oracles delivered through Moses; but I will confine myself to those which are more especially his, with the following preliminary remarks. Of the divine utterances, some are spoken by God in His own person with His prophet for interpreter, in some the revelation comes through question and answer, and others are spoken by Moses in his own person, when possessed by God and carried away out of himself." (emphasis added)

(14) This division is first presented and explained by Theodore Stylianopoulos, Justin Martyr and the Mosaic Law, (Missoula, Montana: Scholars Press, 1975), 51-68.

(15) Justin, Chp. 44 [217].

(16) cf. Stylianopoulos, 59.

(17) cf. Longenecker, 26.

(18) Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, 16.4-5 [Roberts, "Against Heresies", 482]: "...the Lord Himself did speak in His own person to all alike the words of the Decalogue; and therefore, in like manner, do they remain permanently with us, receiving by means of His advent in the flesh, extension and increase, but not abrogation. The laws of bondage, however, were one by one promulgated to the people by Moses, suited for their instruction or for their punishment....These things, therefore, which were given for bondage, and for a sign to them, He canceled by the new covenant of liberty." (emphasis added)

(19) Tertullian, De Pud 6.3-5; cited in Longenecker, 32.

(20) Origen, Commentary on Romans 8:3 and 11:6; cited in Longenecker, 32..

(21) Apostolic Constitutions, 2.4; [Roberts, "Constitutions of the Holy Apostles", Anti-Nicene Fathers, vol. 7 Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, 2 Clement, Early Liturgies, 397]: "But, above all, let him [the bishop] carefully distinguish between the original law and the additional precepts (deuterwsiV), and show which are the laws for believers, and which the bonds for the unbelievers, lest any should fall under those bonds." This quote is taken from the section of Constitutions that is basically a copy of the Didascalia Apostolorum, a third century Syrian document claiming to be of apostolic origins; cf. R. Hugh Connolly, ed, Didascalia Apostolorum, (Oxford, 1929).

(22) Longenecker, 27.

(23) John Chrysostom, Commentary on Galatians (on Gal. 3:25-26). [Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D., ed. "Homilies on the Epistles of St. Paul the Apostle to the Galatians and Ephesians", Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 1, Vol. 13, Chrysostom: Homilies on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1994), 29].

(24) Longenecker, 27.

(25) An in-depth study of this topic is to be found in Stephen D. Benin, The Footprints of God: Divine Accommodation in Jewish and Christian Thought, (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993), esp. Chps. 1-3.

(26) A comprehensive treatment of Justin’s interpretation of the Mosaic Law can be found in Stylianopoulos, Justin Martyr and the Mosaic Law.

(27) Justin, Chp. 44 [217].

(28) Ibid., Chp. 18 (emphasis added) [203]; cf. Chps. 46 & 67.

(29) cf. Stylanopoulos, 132.

(30) cf. Justin, Chp. 19 [203-204].

(31) Ibid., Chp. 21 [204].

(32) Ibid., Chp. 19 [204].

(33) Ibid., Chp. 20 (emphasis added) [204].

(34) cf. Stylianopoulos, 148.

(35) cf. Justin, Chp. 22 [205-206]; also Chps. 19, 43, 67, 92

(36) Ibid., Chp. 19 [204].

(37) cf. Ibid., Chp. 23 [206]. Justin discusses the original purpose of circumcision in Chp. 19.

(38) cf. Ibid.

(39) cf. Ibid., Chp. 67 [231-232].

(40) Ibid., Chp. 67 [231].

(41) cf. Ibid., Chp. 67 [231-232].

(42) cf. Ibid., Chp. 11 [199-200].

(43) cf. Stylianopoulos, 81.

(44) cf. Justin, Chps. 11,12 [199-200].

(45) cf. Ibid., Chp. 11 [199-200].

(46) Benin, Footprints of God, 5.

(47) Irenaeus, Book 4, Chp. 15 [479].

(48) cf. Eusebius, The Proof of the Gospel, trans. and edited by W.J. Ferrar (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1981) 1.6.17.

(49) Eusebius, 1.6.8.

(50) Eusebius, 1.6.8.

(51) cf. Eusebius, 1.6.9: "The law and life of our Saviour Jesus Christ shows itself to be such, being a renewal of the ancient pre-Mosaic religion, in which Abraham, the friend of God, and his forefathers are shown to have lived."

(52) Eusebius, 1.6.18.

(53) Chrysostom, Against the Jews, Discourse 4, Chp. 6. [Paul W. Harkins, trans., "Saint John Chrysostom: Discourses Against Judaizing Christians", The Fathers of the Church, A New Translation, Vol. 68 (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University Press, 1977), 89].

(54) Ibid., [89-90].

(55) cf. Chrysostom, Homilies on Colossians; cited in Stephin D. Benin, "Sacrifice as Education in Augustine and Chrysostom," Church History, 52 (March 1983): 18.

(56) cf. Stephin D. Benin, "Sacrifice as Education", 18.

(57) Philo, "On The Special Laws", Book I, Chp. 2, translated by F.H. Colson, M.A. The Loeb Classical Library, "Philo VII", T.E. Page and others, eds. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1966), 105: "...I consider circumcision to be a symbol (sumbolon) of two things most necessary to our well-being. One is the excision of pleasures which bewitch the mind...The other reason is that a man should know himself and banish from the soul the grievous malady of conceit."

(58) During the patristic era, the "spiritual" sense of the Old Testament could either mean the allegorical or the typological sense, or both. The later division of the "four senses" of Scripture was not yet developed in the Father’s thought.

(59) R.P.C. Hanson D.D., Allegory and Event: A Study of the Sources and Significance of Origen’s Interpretation of Scripture, (Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1959), 295.

(60) Clement of Alexandria, Paed, 1.2.96ff; cited from Hanson, 295.

(61) Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis, 2.9.4. [John Ferguson, trans., "Clement of Alexandria: Stromateis Books One to Three", The Fathers of the Church, A New Translation, Vol. 85 (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1991], 187.

(62) Origen, Contra Celsum, 4.44; cited from Longenecker, 31.

(63) Ibid., 7.20; cited from Hanson, 305.

(64) Origen, Commentary on Romans, 2.14; cited from Hanson, 305.

(65) Origen’s interpretation of these commands are as follows: (1) the ‘place’ mentioned in Exodus 16:29: "what is the ‘place’ of the spiritual soul? Its place is justice, truth, wisdom, sanctification; everything which Christ is the place of the soul." (Homilies on Num. 23:4) and (2) the ‘burdens’ mentioned in Jeremiah 17:21: the burdens refer to sins (see Psalm 37:5 and fire (see Exodus 35:3). cf. N.R.M. De Lange, Origen and the Jews: Studies in Jewish-Christian Relations in Third-Century Palestine, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 93.

(66) cf. De Lange, 92.

(67) Origen, Homilies on Leviticus, 10.1. [Gary Wayne Barkley, trans., "Origen: Homilies on Leviticus 1-16", The Fathers of the Church, A New Translation, Vol. 83 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1990), 202-203].

(68) cf. Hanson, 302, citing Origen, Contra Celsum 2.3.

(69) Athanasius, Incarnation of the Word, Chp. 33. [Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D. and Henry Wace, D.D., trans., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 2, Vol. 4, Athanasius: Select Works and Letters (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), 54]: "But Moses, the truly great, and whom they [the Jews] believe to speak truth, with reference to the Saviour’s becoming man, having estimated what was said as important, and assured of its truth, set down in these words: ‘There shall rise a star our of Jacob, and a man out of Israel, and he shall break in pieces the captains of Moab.’ (Num. 24:5-17);

(70) Also, Incarnation, Chp. 35 [54-55]: "But, perhaps, having heard the prophecy of His death, you ask to learn also what is set forth concerning the Cross. For not even this is passed over: it is displayed by the holy men with great plainness. For first Moses predicts it, and that with a loud voice, when he says ‘Ye shall see you Life hanging before your eyes, and shall not believe.’" (Deut. 28:66) and others.

(71) Athanasius, Festal Letters 19.3-4 [Schaff, 546].

(72) Basil, On the Holy Spirit, Chp. 14 (emphasis added) [Schaff and Wace, "The De Spiritu Sancto", Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 2, Vol. 8, Basil: Letters and Select Works, 19].

(73) Ibid.[20].



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________, The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation. vol. 85, Clement of Alexandria: Stomateis Books One to Three, Translated by John Ferguson. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1991.

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